A bitter playoff exit has the Blues already seeking redemption for next season
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
Photo c/o Northfield Photography
On Thursday, Mar. 1 the Capilano University Blues men’s basketball team played what many on the team believe was their best game of the season. Unfortunately, it was also their last.
Losing to the Camosun College Chargers in a 71-69 thriller, the Blues’ playoffs were over almost as soon as they had begun. However, while the loss was undoubtedly a disappointment for the team, it was in many ways a strong end to the season. “I was happy with it and the guys thought they played their best game of the year. It’s a basketball thing right, sometimes you just fall short,” said head coach Cassidy Kannemeyer.
The team’s 2017-18 basketball campaign was a rollercoaster ride. The team finished the season with a nine and nine record. “That completely describes how we were playing,” said the team’s co-captain Niko Mottus. “We would either have 130 [points] against CBC and set a PACWEST scoring record, or we could score two points in a quarter against VIU after being tied with them at half.”
And it’s true, you never knew which Blues team you would get on a given night. On Friday, they could be moving the ball and executing their game plan better than any team in the conference, then on Saturday, they may play an opposite style of lone isolation basketball, or vice-versa.
In their quarter-final game against the Chargers, the good side showed up. It was perhaps among their best performances of the season. “It was a great game, we were right there the whole time,” said Mottus. Something Kannemeyer agrees with. “I think we were in a good place in that game,” he said. “I think we really bought into the game plan and I think, you know, we tried to speed them up but they were really prepared. So, we got out of that pretty quickly and I thought that we played a very disciplined, defensive half court game.”
Unfortunately, the Chargers were also on the top of their game. The tight match-up – one that came down to the last shot – could have gone either way. Mottus believes that one key aspect could have changed the outcome though – free throws. When looking at the game’s statistics there are only three main stat lines where the teams weren’t neck-and-neck, with free throws being one. The Chargers made 16 of their 22 free throw attempts, shooting 72.7 per cent. The Blues on the other hand were 9-16, shooting just 56.3 per cent, which in a two-point game came back to haunt them.
The Blues also lost their other co-captain Hassan Phills, to an ankle injury early in the game. “A guy, who in my opinion should have been a Second Team All-Star,” Mottus said.
Nevertheless, another category in which the teams were separated was bench scoring. The Blues bench produced 20 points, more than doubling the Charagers’ nine. “If you look at our roster, I think we have like six or seven rookies,” Mottus said. Two of the team’s rookies, Nathan Bromige and Michael Kelly, had tremendous first years. “Both should have been on the [PACWEST] Rookie Team, looking at that, that was ridiculous in my opinion that neither of them made it,” Mottus added. Other rookie standouts include CJ Campbell who at times played like a fifth-year veteran and Kiante Knight.
According to Mottus, the team left Vancouver Island University (VIU)’s gym that night more motivated than disappointed. Having left all they had on the floor and seeing what their potential is, the team is more reinvigorated than ever. “Everyone has that mindset now, they’re hungry,” the captain said. Only adding fuel to the fire, the Douglas College Royals ended up beating the PACWEST’s top ranked team in the finals to advance to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s national tournament, a team that the Blues were two and one against in the regular season. “We beat them twice and they only beat us once and we play really well against them, we had our best game against them, our most complete game,” said Kannemeyer.
With the season now over, it’s time for the Blues to turn their sights to next year. As of now, the majority of the team plans on returning as they will look to build off of this season’s successes and avoid its downfalls. They’ll also have to work over the summer. “They have to work hard. They have to work hard in their off-season,” Kannemeyer said. “There’s just so much potential, but the only way potential is ever reached is if they work hard.”
Aware of this, the team has already decided to not only put in work in weight rooms and with drills, they also plan to play together as much as possible over the break. “This is a really great group of guys,” said Mottus. “All the guys, everyone got along super well, there were no kind of head cases on the team, everyone was just like a bunch of really great friends playing basketball.”